Monday, February 27, 2012

Tea brewed in boiling water

How do you imagine tea brewed in boiling water taste like?  I found such method in a book.  This method is putting leaves into boiling water to brew, instead of pouring hot water into a teapot with leaves.  It is as descriptive as it says …

“The tea has a rich aroma and color with strong bitterness.  You will find a basic flavor of sencha.  It might be a little too bitter for people who are used to contemporary tea.  You taste sweetness after 2-3 minutes.” 

The description is a little ambiguous to me and I wonder a little.  Why is it referred to as basic tea?  What does contemporary tea means?  You could understand the last statement as “You will have a sweet aftertaste in time” or “The tea in the cup gradually gets sweeter in time”.  Anyhow, I know the tea gets very bitter from my experience, but I was also curious about its actual taste. 

The book doesn’t have a detailed instruction so I assumed the amount of ingredients and brewing time from its context and photos.  This time, I tried conditions as follows;

Tea leaf:  Kabusecha (6g)
Water: 70ml
Brewing time: 45sec

I don’t have a teapot that I can use on fire.  Instead, I used a small pan.  I boiled water in it, and I threw the leaves into the gently boiling water.  The leaves absorbed the water quickly and they kept boiling.  I was planning to brew them for a minute but as I was watching the pan, I realized that it would be too long.  So, I took out the pan from the fire at 45sec.  I poured tea into a cup with the use of a strainer.  It looks very strong, doesn’t it?   I’ll write about it on the next entry.  

Friday, February 24, 2012

I grudge cedars

There is a tea tasting contest this Saturday, actually tomorrow.  I’ve got some tea samples and have been tasting them almost every other day in preparation for the contest. 

In one of the contest’s category, you actually drink five sencha and tell their production regions.  My tasting skill is improving through practice.  And now, I can even tell two of them just by smelling the aroma before sipping.  The other three are quite difficult.

Easy (distinctive) two
Honyama (Shizuoka):  aroma that is reminiscent of chestnuts
Yamato (Nara): aroma like flower

Difficult three
Tenryu (Shizuoka): roasted flavor
Fujinomiya (Shizuoka): bitterness of green
Yamae (Fukuoka): roasted flavor with a blend of sweetness,  My favorite!

Note: These reviews of tea are just my personal criteria to distinguish the samples, and do not in any way represent the standard taste of each region. 

This week, a nightmare occurred!   I got a runny nose that never stops(_)  Tissues are overflowing from my trash bin.  I’m now suffering from hay fever!   I wanted to practice more for the three difficult ones.  But now, not only can I not practice but moreover I cannot even tell the easy two, neither.  Oh, my。・゜・(ノД`)・゜・。 So, I had to give up on participating in the contest.  I’m so disappointed.
Someone told me the pollen of this season is from cedars.  Damn, cedar!  But at least, I had the chance to practice and improved my skills ... so let it be.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tea shop that I appreciate

Where do you usually get your tea?  I appreciate tea shops with some factors, such as knowledgeable staff, sample leaves and tasting.  There are not many shops that offer tasting.

I went to a local tea shop, Marumoto for the first time.  It is located in a traditional mall in my town.

I found another factor that I appreciate there.  Do you see many tea boxes on the shelves?  They sell tea by measure!  Usually, tea is pre-packed and you have to buy the same tea in certain amounts, something like 100 or 200g.  I want to try many different types of teas.  So, it will be very much appreciated if I can buy them in small amounts.  What the factors do you count on for your tea shop?

Friday, February 17, 2012

The essentials: 6. Have umbrellas ready even if it is not raining

The ancient tea master, Rikyu once said “Have umbrellas ready even if it is not raining”.  This is one of the seven essentials of The Way of Tea, which I introduced on the previous entry.

“Have umbrellas ready even if it is not raining” seems like a vain effort.  In modern times, everybody thinks being rational is good.  Isn’t this lesson rational? 

Way back in Rikyu’s days, it must have been difficult to predict the weather.  The goal of every ceremony is to make your guests happy.  So, it’s a good idea to prepare umbrellas for your guests in case of sudden rain.   To lead thing to success, foreseeing emergency situations are necessary.  Not considering about such kinds of situation is irrational.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Smiley hojicha latte

I am into hojicha latte since I introduced the recipes on this blog and I have been trying some other conditions.  I would like to share an improved recipe that I discovered.   Most recipes are good with sugar, but this combination has a well balanced flavor of tea and milk even it is not sweetened.   It will make you smile (^-^)

Hojicha leaves: 3g
Hot water: 40ml/1.4oz
Hot milk: 120ml/4.2oz
Sugar: optional

Ippukuwan (big tea cup)
Tea whisk
Small teapot


1.    Whisk the hot milk (120ml/4.2oz) in the ippukuwan until it gets foamy

2.    Brew the hojicha for 30sec
Put tea leaves (3g) into the teapot and add boiling water (50ml/1.4oz)
Steep it for 30sec

3.    Pour the brewed hojicha into the ippukuwan
I drew a smiley face as I poured the tea.


If you want to sweeten, you could brew it longer like 45sec for richer flavor.
You need to rinse well the teawhisk immediately to prevent molding and to avoided smell.

Friday, February 10, 2012

My hojicha-latte recipe

Once I have tried hojicha-latte at Starbucks.  Hojicha is roasted green tea.  I pretty liked the new tea beverage with the roasted flavor.  It was milder than cafe latte and more like English tea with milk.

I wanted to have it at home.  So, I tried preparing it in three different conditions to find out a good recipe on my own.

Brew tea with boiling water first.  Then add milk into the brewed tea in a cup.
Brew tea with only hot milk, not water
Tea leaves
Boiled water
50ml / 1.7oz
Hot milk
50ml / 1.7oz
100ml / 3.5oz
Brewing time

This is pretty similar with “B, but slightly milder.
This is close to the one at the Starbucks.
This is rich with the milky flavor.
You can double the amount of the ingredients if you want it plenty.
You can add sugar if you want.

It was two years ago, so I don’t exactly remember the taste of Starbucks hojicha latte.  But, I guess “A” and “B” are similar to it.  However, I liked the “C” most among the three.  “C” has the richest flavor with milky taste.

Hojicha latte is not bitter so I think it can be enjoyed by people who don’t like the bitterness of green tea. 

I don’t have a milk-foam maker, so I whisked hot milk with a bamboo teawhisk.  You need to rinse well the teawhisk immediately to prevent molding and to avoided smell.

I don’t recommend using milk in your Japanese teapot.  Especially, non-glazed teapots (such as yakishime or red clay) can absorb smells.  Also, milk contains fat and I’m not sure what effect of the fat to those teapots.  I used a porcelain bowl and mesh basket to brew the tea with milk.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wabi, exquisite beauty in simplicity

Not many Japanese can explain what exactly “wabi” is.  If you look it up in a dictionary, it says something like the following.

Wabi is the exquisite beauty, discovered and appreciated in simplicity and calmness.

Many people know of “wabi-sabi” or “wabi”, and know a general meaning.  But once it comes to explaining the essential idea, most of them will have a hard time.

I found an interesting idea about “wabi” in a book, “利休に帰れ(Return to Rikyu)” written by a monk from a famous temple in Kyoto.

Wabi is to appreciate and limit things at the same time.  For example, people have to kill other lives to live.  You might have to kill ten cows, but you try to bear with eight.  You save two.  You make the eight work like ten.  That is the idea of wabi.  You don’t need more than what you need.

Expensive items imported from China were highly valued at the beginning of the tea history.  Such as bronze vases, celadon tea bowls or ivory tea scoops.  Wabi sprit made people think simple wares will be fine for The Way of Tea.  Rustic tea bowls and *bamboo vase and teascoop become appreciated in Wabi Tea.  The tea room is simple and it doesn’t have any unnecessary stuff inside.  That’s why a simple flower displayed in a tea room can be so brilliant.  People find the exquisite beauty in eliminating unnecessary details.
*Bamboo was a reasonable material and you could get it anywhere.

Modern life is surrounded by so many things.  Why don’t you enjoy your tea with only what you need.   You might find peace and beauty there.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Reason for fake charcoal

The other day, I went to the citizens’ tea ceremony held at the cultural center in my town, Seto.  It is casual and pretty much reasonable so anybody can attend.  What interesting about the cultural center is that there is a nice classic tea room inside a concrete building.  While inside the traditional tea room, you will forget that you are in the modern building. 

When I attended the ceremony last year, I was disappointed that the heath used was not real charcoal.  A charcoal-imitation electric stove was used.  This year again, it was not real charcoal in the heath.  But this time, I found out the reason behind it.  The host told me that there is a regulation for using fire inside the building.  I don’t know if it is for public building or concrete architecture, anyhow they had to use electric stove.  Nevertheless, I still appreciate the nice tea room and the opportunity for casual tea ceremony.

Can you see the heath underneath?  It has some false charcoal figure with red hot wire. This is not exactly the one used in the ceremony, but something like this.